After 18 Years, Les Mis Vacates Palace for Queen'sDate: 21 November 2003
As previously tipped (See The Goss, 17 Nov 2003), the West End's longest running musical, Les Miserables, is on the move. In the new year, the Boublil and Schönberg blockbuster will pack up at the 1,400-seat Palace Theatre and move a few doors down Shaftesbury Avenue to the more intimate, 990-seat Queen's Theatre.
The show's final performance at the Palace will be on 27 March 2004, with a reopening at the Queen's in early April (exact date has yet to be announced). As part of the move, producer and theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh, who owns the Queen's, will take back the theatre's lease from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres (RUT) two years early.
This will enable Mackintosh to begin his planned £7 million redevelopment of the Shaftesbury Avenue block - including renovations to both the Queen's and Gielgud Theatres and the creation of the new Sondheim studio space - ahead of schedule (See News, 25 Jun 2003). Meanwhile, back at the Palace, owners RUT will carry out essential building work that has been deferred during Les Miserables's record-breaking run.
Now into its 19th year, Les Mis has been a fixture at the Palace ever since December 1985, when it opened there after an initial two months at the Barbican under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company. When Lloyd Webber's 21-year-old Cats closed at the New London in May 2002, it became the West End's longest still running musical, followed by The Phantom of the Opera, now in its 18th year at Her Majesty's Theatre.
Based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Mis has been seen worldwide by over 50 million people in more than 38 countries and in 21 languages.
Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the RSC, the musical has a book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The production is designed by John Napier and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.
While no further productions have yet been announced for the Palace, another musical based on another 19th-century novel, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, has been tipped for the venue in September 2004 (See The Goss, 15 Sep 2003). The new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical will have a book by Charlotte Jones, lyrics by David Zippel, and will also be directed by Trevor Nunn.
Currently residing at the Queen's is the American marching band extravaganza, Cyberjam, which is taking bookings up to 4 January 2004. The RSC's Stratford pairing of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed are expected to transfer for an interim eight-week season ahead of Les Miserables's arrival (See News, 12 Nov 2003).
- by Terri Paddock